Tag Archives: thoughts

30. Double dog

Here’s an idea: I dare you to go embarrass yourself for everyone else’s benefit.

Pretty sure we’ve all given and received our fair share of dares. Raise your hand if you were one those folks who opted for “truth” rather than dare when there was a choice involved. Shame on you. Truth is boring and everyone knows that.

However, there were certain Truth & Darers who were downright criminally insane, and from them I didn’t want to risk a dare that put my life in danger, because we all know you can’t turn down a dare.

Oh wait. Yes you can.

Some dares are simply too much for some people, too far out of their comfort zone. Sometimes people are too shy to perform the task, and even after all the begging and pleading and ridiculing, they’d still deny the dare, perhaps switching their selection to truth instead.

“Not so fast, shy guy,” they’d say, “I double dog dare you.”

Meaning: I will also do the task so long as you do it first.

This was some heavy shit. This meant that the darer was putting themselves on the line as much as the daree, so long as the daree didn’t persist in backing out. Not only was the daree offered a chance to share their embarrassment with another, but to deny the double dog was nearing societal inappropriateness. The darer was literally offering themselves on a platter, equaling the playing field, and if you said no to that selflessness, then you were all but ostracized.

That’s like a neighbor asking you to bring chips to a barbecue, promising to bring chips to your barbecue next time, and instead of chips you bring a sledgehammer and you smash his cat with it.

The double dog dare led to inner existential turmoil. Obviously the original dare was embarrassing enough to deny it outright, but now there was this overt societal factor at play. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” said the darer. “You do this task, and I’ll do it, too.” On one hand, this put the darer in a higher position of power by proving to the audience that they, unlike the daree, would willingly perform this task without a moment’s hesitation. On the other, it took some of the excitement out of the dare, since doing these tasks alone was half the fun.

Still, there were those who were persistently lame.

If anyone else wanted to participate in the egging on, they could add a triple, quadruple, or quintuple to the dog dare, depending on how much your friends wanted to encourage you to not be lame. For the daree, this only made your choice more difficult. Denying these darers their extended hands of good faith and unity, their willingness to be silly or stupid with you, and you were basically telling them you were better than them in some way. More mature, more reserved. Maybe they’d be willing to make fools of themselves, but not you. No way.

Here’s a truth for you: You’re not better than anyone.

Be silly. Do the dares. You only live once.

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29. Facebook parenting

Say what you will about Facebook’s Skynet-esque takeover of all things internet, but at least it’s opened the door for more good old fashioned child-bragging. It just makes my day to see that my family has written some adorable comment about a photo or story I post. A “that’s my boy” or “my, you’re getting so handsome” does wonders for my self-esteem, and for that one digital second it feels like they’re here with me, giving me a pat on the back.

I mean, as parents, I can only imagine that you want to stay connected to your kids’ lives. This can be difficult when us kids grow up, leave for college, study abroad, and move into tiny apartments in big cities far away. You probably won’t see each other every day. Or every month. Suddenly there comes a time when you see your kid maybe two or three times each year.

Before Facebook, there was e-mail. Some of us still use e-mail.

But there’s something immediate and social about Facebook that makes it more appealing. You can’t brag about your kid’s new girlfriend, or your kid’s college acceptance, or your kid’s third-place swimming trophy in an e-mail. Who will ever see it? No, now that we have Facebook, we can post a comment and have it seen by many. This is bragging on a global scale.

I reckon Facebook is akin to the barbershops of yore, when men gathered to have their beards shaved with razors and share tales about their sons and daughters, off braving the real world, occasionally asking for help with money. Or perhaps Facebook is like the playground where the adults sit on the benches, commenting about their children to other parents, while the kids fumble about in the jungle-gym of life.

Johnny made a cool sandcastle. Like.

Sally took an artsy photo of the see-saw. Like.

I love the connection we’re allowed through Facebook, as disconnected as it seems. I agree that the lack of verbal communication is detrimental to society, but no one’s stopping us from picking up the phone every once in a while. Facebook is just quicker. It’s good for other things, like photos, videos, brief life updates, and everything in between.

And one day, when Facebook becomes self-aware and initiates Judgement Day, we’ll regret we gave it this much power over our lives. But in the meantime, like on, parents.

Like on.

28. four-day weekends

recently we had a four-day weekend. it was better than a two-day weekend, but that was about it because four-day weekends are a fraud.

yes, i said it.

and i’m only using one piece of evidence to back that up:

four-day weekends go by too fast.

you start off all excited. maybe you make some plans, or whatever. but in the end, the days just slip on by and then it’s sunday night and then it’s monday morning and it’s all gone just like any other weekend.

my point is that every weekend should be a four-day weekend. or maybe that there should not be weekends at all (gasp!) but only greatness all the time (gasp! gasp!)!

what are we doing with this 5-day work-week crap? how is anyone supposed to get anything done if they are working a job 5 days a week? how are we supposed to write stories, novels, or pulitzer prize winning blog posts (does such a thing even exist yet?) if we’re wasting all our time at a job? how are we supposed to make our dreams come true, admire the clouds, doodle, eat more ice cream, take more naps, learn things, drink 8 glasses of water a day, or design out the details of our dream houses in our heads if we have to go to work?

in closing, i think we should all quit our jobs. so what about unemployment. i’m a firm believer that a good job is one that is not a job at all, but something you would probably be doing anyways regardless of whether you were getting paid or not.

so i’m becoming a professional spaghetti eater. and i’ll freelance my clothes-changing skills when the going gets tough.

but seriously, this is my dream and nobody’s gonna bully me into thinking it isn’t possible: i want to stop working. i want to reach the day where i never work ever, ever again. i will just do awesome cool creative meaningful things that are interesting and rad. so rad, in fact, that i won’t have to plan my life in anticipation of any four-day weekend b.s. instead, i’ll just be amazing everyday.

raise your plate of sunday bacon if you’re with me!

27. Alcohol

It’s strange to think that there was a day in my youth when beer was the most disgusting thing I’d ever encountered and it baffled me how my parents could drink such a thing. What were they, crazy? Might as well be chugging barrels of Elmer’s glue. There was this red liquid called “wine” that felt like a tingly fruity punch to the mouth and made your insides go all warm like the inside of a toasted Pop Tart. I stuck out my tongue at these adult beverages, shunning them like taxes and full-time jobs.

Then I grew up.

And there came a day, sometime in college, when after a hard day of working at the coffee-shop, there was nothing better than coming home to or going out to get a nice cold beer. Not a Coke, not chocolate milk, not a glass of water… No. Beer. In my belly. Now.

Two things are intriguing about that evolutionary leap:

  1. My parents were right all along.
  2. People change.

My mom used to love clams, then, one day, she became allergic to them. As a kid, my sister’s first taste of wine was quite a similar experience to mine, but someday she’ll sit down with a nice Italian dinner or a sappy chick-flick, and a glass of wine will just feel right. I mention this because I’ve learned of an important facet of the human condition: We can hate something for a long time, then turn around and love it. We can love something for a long time, and turn around and hate it. This can happen overnight or over a summer, sometimes by our choice, sometimes due to outside circumstances. The point is, nothing is forever.

Your admiration for Pabst Blue Ribbon will not be the same in ten years.

With beer, I’ve gone through a fluctuating relationship, at first swallowing any drunk-inducing brew available, now a bit more refined in my choice of hops intake. With wine, I’ve found my favorites, but I still like anything with a neat label on the bottle. With hard alcohol, we got off on a rocky start, and there was some vomiting, and we didn’t speak for a while, but ever since a semester abroad in Istanbul, we’ve been getting along much better. People change. Or, to be more specific, our tastes change. This is part of growing up.

Your admiration for anything will change. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in a dozen years. Whatever you’re doing right now, whatever you enjoy, whatever you hate, whatever you’re afraid of… None of that will exist in the same way tomorrow. We’re always changing. We’re always growing.

Grab a beer. Pour some wine. Order a round of shots.

Let’s drink to Now.

Today is the last day you’ll be who you are. Tomorrow you’ll start becoming someone totally different.

26. Half-full, half-empty

Let’s be clear about something. It’s been bugging me for a while. This cup that we’re always talking about, the one perpetually stuck between being half-full or half-empty… There is no cup. Nothing is half-full, nothing is half-empty. Everything just is.

So why do we mention this cup? What exactly are we trying to say?

The cup could be anything. We use it as a vessel to symbolize the chaos of the universe. It could be a container, as most cups are, or it could be wildly more symbolic. This is up to you. Either way, it’s an attempt to contain that chaos and make sense of it, which is like trying to arrange a cluster of angry wasps into a single-file line. The liquid we imagine inside this vessel is our limiting opinion of our relationship with the chaos, either good or bad, with no in-between.

We’re ignoring what’s important here. We’re validating bad habits. When we feel bad, we say we’re operating half-empty. On the good days, we’re half-full. We’re basically admitting that we either possess a finite amount of liquid, or a finite amount of space. By doing this we are limiting the universe and ourselves. We’re projecting our own perception of the universe onto this symbol, not looking inward for answers, but pointing blame or praise elsewhere, creating a cup that apparently controls the fate of our mentality. In truth, we are always capable of changing our perception.

It is just as harmful to validate pessimism as it is to encourage optimism. If today is a bad day, make a positive change. If today is a good day, share that goodness with others. Don’t ignore how you feel by hiding behind an illusion. Just because you’ve compared your relationship to the universe to the status of liquid within a cup doesn’t mean everything will make sense or get better or worse.

The half-full/half-empty argument should be dropped. Not only because those two options leave you with identical amounts of liquid, but because there are opposite points of view to each option. If your glass is half-empty, then obviously you like what you’re drinking and it hasn’t killed you yet, so drink up! If you glass is half-full, then your idea of “full” is relative and what you’ve got in your glass is enough as is. Don’t be greedy.

The point is that there is no cup. There is only us. We are not half-anything.

Be full and the universe will be full with you.

25. sauce

i’ve had a lot of pasta sauces in my day.

as an avid cook, i’ve also cooked quite a few from scratch.

in my college days i worked at a foods co-op, which gave me a lot of access to fresh, quality ingredients with which to craft the finest bolognese or carbanara.

all of these experiences and others that have not been mentioned make me the sauce connoisseur.

and do you know which pasta sauce i still crave the most?

prego.

this is not an advertisement. though, it probably should be.

i get that prego is store bought, processed, super-cheap, and loaded with sugars that make it’s claims about hearth health completely bogus.

it still tastes the best.

because taste isn’t about pomp. it’s about nostalgia, and i have many a good memory of pasta nights as a kid.

pasta nights were tranquil nights, because nobody complained over a heaping bowl of pasta. through most of my childhood i piled butter and fake parmesan on top of my spaghetti. i was afraid of sauce. but once i was forced to jump into that tangy, rich wonderful sauce that never forgot to add a bit of sweetness at the end, i knew i would forever be a prego addict.

years later, when i was newly graduated from college, i was pretty much starving in a little studio apartment. there was a grocery outlet next door, which was the regrettable source of most of my diet. but the place had one thing in its favor: they carried prego. and after a rough day of reporting the news as a total rookie who had no idea what she was doing, there was nothing better than coming home and cooking up the most nostalgic bowl of cheap and easy pasta. at that time, i couldn’t even afford the parmesan. but i didn’t care. i was happy with the prego.

now that i’m living abroad, i find that prego is readily available at most grocery stores and this is a huge relief. even though i don’t advocate coming to a foreign country just to eat the same foods you ate back home, there are times when you are living abroad (much different than visiting abroad) when you just want to curl up in a little ball and look at something familiar. even better if it can be ingested.

of course, i still enjoy making a wonderful tomato sauce from scratch because really, the enjoyment of a homemade sauce is more in the process than anything. put on some good italian tunes, pour a glass of wine, and let it simmer all day.

but for the fast times in life, there’s no shame in prego.

24. Fiction party

I entered the fiction party uninvited, as we all did, and I like to think maybe I crawled in through an open window. Dirt on my hands and knees, I sought the nearest restroom, where I washed up while catching curious glances from Michael Crichton fixing his dinosaur necktie in the mirror. Heading toward the noise, I saw John Steinbeck and Mark Twain trading jokes in the stairwell and they gave me conflicting directions about where I’d go to find my voice. “West,” said John, while Mark insisted, “Follow the Mississippi.” Must’ve taken a wrong turn at Castle Rock, following the bark of a rabid dog and the purr of a possessed 1958 Plymouth Belvedere, leading me to the wicked workshop of Stephen King. Veering back into the smoky crowd, I bumped into Ernest Hemingway and spilled his whiskey. There were hundreds of faces in the crowd, filling the endless rooms with the smell of ink and sweat. Many of them I did not know. Hemingway demanded I fetch him another drink, and in the kitchen I met Chuck Palahniuk, who stood there talking to himself about mayhem and lullabies, whispering, “His name is Robert Paulson.” Cormac McCarthy pulled me aside and told me to forget everything I knew about quotation marks. Never got back to Hemingway with his drink, which was snatched out of my hand by a moody Anne Rice. On the back porch I found Bret Easton Ellis, rambling about the lights of Los Angeles at dusk, doing lines of coke with Hunter S. Thompson while Truman Capote in a bathing suit clacked noisily on a typewriter nearby. Somewhere in the distance I heard J.K. Rowling practicing her spells, and over by the gazebo was Paulo Coelho drawing figures in the sand garden. The time was slipping by, yet it felt like we existed in a realm that controlled it, if only I knew the secret. Tom Robbins came through like a perfume, filling my mind with immortal thoughts, vanishing in a cloud of exotic vocabulary. The hum of the party and outdoor electric lights grew overwhelming, and in the quieter rooms upstairs, I found Harper Lee and William Golding exchanging ideas about morality in our children, a much more pleasant debate than the one boiling next door between Huxley and Orwell. I wanted to stop the fight from escalating but Ray Bradbury held me back and said, “No, let them handle this.” In the dining hall I joined Charles Dickens for a glass of wine and some roast duck, but he ventured off to discuss with Poe an idea for a story about a raven. The doorbell rang and I answered it, letting in Franz Kafka, stuck again in cockroach form, and no one but Kurt Vonnegut paid him any attention. I watched a few minutes of the Lord of the Rings with Tolkien before he switched it off and said they pronounced Aragorn wrong, and I was distracted by Joseph Heller, who was making dive-bomber sounds as he leapt from the roof into the pool and Jack Kerouac soon joined him, and it was Jane Austen who told them to settle down while she sunbathed in the lawn with Charlotte Brontë and two bloody marys. In the evening, as the party died down, I walked for some time with Jules Verne until I realized that we’d found the center of the earth, and we discovered Shakespeare’s true identity, but I promised not to tell. Upon return, Verne went off with James Joyce and I sought the company of Neil Gaiman, who took me into Neverwhere to meet the shadows of his mind. When we returned it was daylight and the party had begun again with the death of Myrtle Wilson and a big gasp from those listening to Fitzgerald tell Gatsby’s great tale.

23. Duct Tape

I am still under the impression that you can fix almost anything with duct tape. The versatile gray adhesive has saved my butt more times than I care to admit. I get this MacGyver bravado whenever I’ve successfully solved a problem with duct tape alone. Squeaky mattress springs? Leaking faucet? Crooked painting? No problem. I’ve got duct tape.

At one point I drove a car that was making an awful rattling noise, and when I looked underneath I noticed a piece of metal had rusted and cracked loose and had been vibrating noisily against the muffler. Guess what solved that issue?

Duct tape.

Can’t say I’ve ever used the stuff on any actual ducts, but I’ve used it on mirrors, computers, tables, lamps, books, refrigerators, shelves, carpets, televisions, seat cushions, wrist-watches, clothing, and shoes. I can’t think of many inventions more versatile.

Its only weakness is that moment when you pull off a few inches of tape and the sticky sides come into contact and you end up with this inseparable, useless loop. Nothing brings tears to an angel’s eyes faster than wasted duct tape.

I guess my point is that before using what we already have, we tend to turn to the next and greatest tool that can help us solve our problems, spending money and effort to design something new and shiny that does barely more than what our old technology did before. Maybe we do this for an aesthetic purpose. Maybe we do this because there’s more money in planned obsolescence. Regardless, it seems shameful to constantly come up with new ways to do the same thing.

Hole in a tent? Loose floorboard? Broken toy?

Grab that roll of silver wonder and fix it today.

22. Gravity

A friend of mine once said, “Gravity is my nemesis.”

Kudos to him for using one of the most bad-ass words in the dictionary, but also for bringing up a rather poignant observation: we are all fighting against gravity. Here we are, creatures on this spinning planet, constantly being held down by an invisible hand at the rate of approximately 9.8 meters per second squared. Granted, the alternative is terrifying and seems like something out of a scene from Inception, since without gravity we’d all go flinging out into the atmosphere like the toys of a child throwing a tantrum. The fact remains, however, that every day we’re alive, we’re weighted down, carrying this burden of space-time curvature. You feel it when your chair leans back a little too far. You feel it after a long shift at work. You feel it when you’re carrying groceries up a flight of stairs. You feel it, and you ignore it, because we can’t fight it. We send astronauts into space, yes, but even gravity knows we’ll have to come back down for air eventually.

The trouble with gravity, despite Einstein’s contributions, is that it’s still a mystery. When I’m asked if I know how gravity works, the first answer I give comes from some cobwebbed elementary school memory. “It’s, like, because of the way Earth spins,” I’d say. But that doesn’t make any sense at all. When you put an object on a surface and spin that surface, that object doesn’t stick around. So then another elementary school theory comes to mind… Maybe Newton’s “equal and opposite reaction” idea has something to do with this, meaning for as much energy that is used to throw people off of Earth, the same amount is being used to keep us down. But I don’t think it’s that simple.

There’s something bigger going on. Einstein theorized something like this: We’re all just objects with mass on a big blanket called The Universe and as our planetary vessels roll around, they sink into this fabric, and it is through this sinking that we are anchored to the ground.

Or something like that. He used more math.

The point is, we share a common battle. We don’t think about it a lot because we’re not airline pilots or astronauts, but sometimes when we look up at the birds or the stars, we have an inkling of dissatisfaction. Why not me? We wonder. In another light, gravity could equate to the paternal love of Mother Earth. She gives us food and shelter, while all the while keeping us tethered from the cold, lifeless void beyond the blue sky. Over time perhaps we start to feel smothered. We want to rebel against our parent planet and do our own thing. We want to smoke cigarettes in alleyways with hipster black holes and spend weekends with supernovas in the neon-glow of constellations. Mom won’t let us. Mom knows best. “No, dear, your little lungs couldn’t handle it.”

Some of us are okay with gravity. It keeps our world in order. Some of us view it as an enemy, like The Man who keeps us down. Others, like myself, see it as a mystery. But the most important thing about gravity is the fact that we all experience it all the time. No matter who or what you are, if you’re on this planet, you’re feeling it. Like it or not, we’re meant to be stuck here, and since there’s no feasible option for leaving Earth’s gravitational pull, we really ought to face the fact that we’re all being kept here together for some mysterious reason, and the sooner we stop bickering about oil or money or religion, maybe we can work together to figure out why.

21. Silent letters

I’ve got an H in my first name that must feel like the lousiest letter in the world. Sometimes, in spelling out my name, I forget that it was ever there. Oh hello, H. You’re the runt of the family, stuck there between the heavy-lifter, C (doing its best impersonation of a K), and it’s palatal liquid neighbor, the R, who seems to have all the fun. There’s nothing I can do for you, H. Linguistics is linguistics is linguistics. You’re a place-holder that makes my name look less feminine.

Though I tend to just go by Chris, there are another six letters that reveal themselves in official documents and lectures from my mother, the –topher. Here we have another identity crisis brewing since the day I was born. The P and H (poor H!) here are like the Brad and Angelina of my given name, losing their individuality and morphing into Brangelina, or, in my case, the labiodental fricative, F. While the bilabial pop of the letter P and the glottal sigh of the H are, on their own, pleasant sounds, they’ve been banished from the pronunciation of Christopher until the end of time. At least they can party together with the litmus test strips.

There are other letters I think deserve recognition, and an apology, knowing they’ll never share the phonetic spotlight with their neighboring phonemes. The first D in Wednesday. The first R in February. The H in spaghetti. The O and second E (who gets side-swiped by a rogue back vowel, U) in people. The X in xylophone (a real slap in the face, honestly, since it’s one of X’s best words). The B in comb. The N in solemn. The T in potpourri. All these wonderful letters, completely and utterly ignored.

Which leads me to my next point…

These letters deserve recognition, yes, but if we pronounce them then the words will be rendered ridiculous. Don’t say ex-eye-lo-phone. Don’t say pee-oh-pull. And never pronounce the B at the end of comb, tomb, or lamb. So what can we do for them? Honestly? We should put them out of their misery. Cut them out like tonsils. Remove them like wisdom teeth. Why tease them at all? If the word needs a re-write (toom, anyone?), then so be it.

I’d feel a little strange if my name was spelled Kristofer, but I’d get over it. And actually, just as I typed that out and saw Word’s little red squiggle tell me it was spelled incorrectly, I laughed. Wrong? Word, please. It’s more correct than you know.

20. High school

What follows is an e-mail from my younger sister inquiring about my opinion regarding her upcoming high school experience.

I’ve decided to answer those questions here, putting my remarks in [brackets]. 

“Hey Chrissy! [only my sister can call me Chrissy] As you know the school year is right around the corner and I’m super anxious. I know high school is when some people REINVENT themselves or whatever [“or whatever” is the best way to describe what happens to you in high school]. But there is so much more to think about that I can’t even think about one thing at a time [welcome to your first taste of real life]. I am overwhelmed with all the new things that I will have to get used to… New school, new people, more freedom [as well as a job, paying for gas, dumb boys, and pre-calculus]. I really want to make new friends since I’m kind of lost with friends [lost without friends or you lost your friends on a hiking expedition?]. And since I want to make NEW friends, I kind of want to  REINVENT that part of my life. All i want is for people to like me [the curse of the human condition, my dear sister, just remember to be yourself]. And when lunch comes around, who do I hang out with? [hang out with classmates first, they’ll be the first people you talk to and you’ll have something to talk about] I mean, I’m not going to sit by myself and eat. That’s sad [the trick is not to sit alone and eat, but to walk around and eat, and people will think you’re going somewhere]. Do I just go up to someone and start talking throughout the lunch period, it’s only thirty minutes… [you can try, and since this isn’t a shady dive-bar, there won’t be any negative assumptions]. And what is it about the juniors and seniors being the upper class men and the freshman and sophomores being lower class men? [it’s been that way for eons, but don’t worry, you’ll be upper class soon enough] Are they mean to a freshman like me? [they’ll probably just ignore you] Will they be rude? [only if you bother them or touch their cars] Should I stay as far as I can from them? [if you can] And what do you pack in your backpack? [books, doodling paper, Twizzlers, and one nice pen] Do they tell you at orientation? [they tell you nothing valuable at orientation] What do you do at orientation? [sit in the bleachers and size up the competition sitting around you] Do you introduce yourself to your teachers? [nope, they’re probably too hungover to remember names, anyway] At orientation, do you have time to hang out with your friends, if you have any? [if I remember correctly, the school staff will just fill your head with a bunch of information, then set you free to do as you like] Did you go to school on the first day with a friend? Or did you go solo? [I went solo every morning, but if you meet someone who takes the same route as you, befriend them] Sorry there’s so many questions… [you’ll have plenty more, I’m sure] You don’t have to answer them if you don’t want to [well, I did].”

Good luck, sister. High school for me wasn’t all that bad. I played the quiet card, keeping to the fringes of a variety of social groups, never an outcast but never in the spotlight. Part of me wishes I’d been more outgoing and memorable, but high school is the beginning of a long process of figuring yourself out. You’ll hit some walls. You’ll make some breakthroughs. You’ll find out which subject you’re passionate about, you’ll find a new hobby or two, and you’ll probably kiss someone at a party. Everything will be new and strange and uncomfortable and exciting. You’ll change your styles, you’ll get a bad haircut, you’ll cry and you’ll laugh and you’ll hate some teachers and love others. You’re going to drink beer and probably meet people who smoke cigarettes. In the end, no one will judge you if you try these things, just don’t make them into bad habits. You’ll learn how to drive and your car will become your second home. DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE OR I WILL STEAL YOUR CAR. Please don’t get into any accidents, but I did, so know it’s probable and just go slow on slippery roads. You will fail a test. You will ace an essay that you spent the entire night writing the day before it was due. Maybe you’ll ditch some classes, but don’t ditch too many. Do it at least once. Mom caught me the one time I did it, so be sneakier than I was. You’ll have your heart broken, you’ll go all goo-goo-eyes for someone else, life goes on. You will go to Prom. You will gossip and probably be gossiped about. Be nice. Be fair. You’ll have a locker but you probably won’t use it. Appreciate art class. Pay attention in math class. Stay awake in history. Aim for the Advanced classes, but don’t feel bad if you don’t take them, they just count for college credit. Study for the SAT and take it more than once, if you can. I got an 1180, which is okay, but you can do better. Don’t fight with Mom about stupid things. You’ll argue a lot, probably, about things like staying out late, the clothes you wear, the friends you make… I’m not saying she’s right about everything, but she’s only looking out for you and respect the fact that she went through a lot of the same situations as you. Go to her for advice. Keep her informed and she won’t pester you with questions. She is your greatest resource. Don’t hate school. It’s the last stretch of free education that you’ll receive and after this, you go into debt to learn. Join a club. Join a sports team. These are good ways to make friends. Eat a lot of pizza, take pictures of your life, keep a journal, and always make sure your behavior comes from a place of self-love, not the need to please others. You come first. They come second. Most of them, you’ll never see again after high school. Enjoy the ride.

19. Belly buttons

Sometimes I forget that I have a belly button. But I do. There it is, just this little bump half-hidden in this crater a few inches south of the bottom ridge of my ribcage, with a couple hairs keeping it company. What a strange wound, long-healed and long-forgotten, a little scabbed-over reminder that I was once attached by tube to another mammal who nourished me in a uterus for nine months. Now the belly button (the umbilicus) hitches a ride on my anatomy, knowing its job is done, collecting unemployment lint for as long as I live.

You have one too. Go on, take a look.

There are three kinds, so far as I know:

  1. The Dweller, like mine, a small knot at the bottom of a crater, as if a round piece of my abdomen was scooped out by a spoon and my umbilicus thought it a nice pit in which to settle.
  2. The Boaster, protruding outward, proudly, a little monument erected on the smooth plateau of your abdomen as if to say, “Yes, goddamnit, I was birthed!” They are of various designs: sometimes simple and predictably button-like, sometimes ornate as the petals of a rose.
  3. The Baby Turtle, withdrawn into sealed crevices, the skin closing around them. I do not understand these belly buttons. I imagine them like masochistic poets in darkened basements smoking long cigarettes and listening to vinyl records of whale songs while lamenting their departure from their creator. If you ever pry into their private world, they resent you for it.

More generally, you’ve got your innies and your outties. Some belly buttons are flat, some are round, some have the capacity to hold body-shots of tequila. Others look like knots on an old tree, or a tongue stuck out in jest. I’ve seen buttons resembling bottomless pits, buttons that look like the wrinkled neck of a turkey, but regardless of its curb appeal, that button is a reminder of your original womb address and you will always have a fond memory of your first home.

Do yourself a favor and try to appreciate your belly button more. Tonight I looked down at mine and thought, “You’re sort of a big deal around here and I never pay attention to you.” It’s your first scar. Through that portal you were fed your first meal. I’m not sure how exactly you can show your appreciation for your umbilicus, but maybe just a brief hello in the shower, or when you change your shirt, enough to let it know it’s at least more important than your appendix.

18. kids (a pithy dissent)

kids are overrated. they should definitely not rule the world.

it happens early on, this misunderstanding about kids. you see them and you say “wow they are just like little people, that is so cute.” yeah, yeah, it’s cute. but you failed to highlight the truth behind your own truth- they are just like little people: some of them are awesome, and some of them are not.

people assume that just because a kid is small and hasn’t been around very long that he/she is innocent and untouched by society. fallacy flag. wavin’ it alllll around.

exhibit a) have you ever sworn in front of a kid? i bet that kid went off and said that swear word to his/her mama, didn’t he/she? “just like a parrot,” everyone laughs. kids are incredibly absorbent sponges. they are totally and completely affected by society. they fold to the cool kid’s every whim and fancy. they are so impressionable. if you make them watch countless hours of jersey shore, they will ask you for a bouffant. haven’t you seen the show “toddlers in tiaras?”

kids are a big old mess.

not that they shouldn’t be. i mean, they’re kids. they’ve got a free pass and they should use it because, well, a free pass is a terrible thing to waste.

but furthermore, kids aren’t fair. they are self serving. if you don’t follow the rules exactly and it takes away from their own pot of gold in some way, they will not waste a second doubting whether or not they should tell you about it. they only point out errors in rule following if it benefits their competitors and their competitors only fold under the pressure and give up the point because they are afraid of being disgraced.

i mean, there’s nothing wrong with selfishness. it is the stem of love, afterall. but if it remains a stem and never grows into a flower, you have an ego-maniac. this is what would happen if we stayed kids forever and never grew.

kids hit each other a lot. they don’t understand the consequences of their own force. they go around squashing butterflies and squeezing puppies too tight because they don’t understand. so i can’t imagine that kids sitting in the oval office would resist the temptation to blow things up at the touch of a few buttons.

don’t get me wrong- it’s fine that kids are selfish and violent and can’t think for themselves. everyone takes time to grow into themselves. but there’s no need to lump all children into the same category simply because of a nostalgia for our own childhood, which is over. which, as we may recall, was full of flaws and growing pains and horrific humiliations. remember: you couldn’t wait to grow up!

the point is that we should stop pestering children about how cute they are and live in the present with gratitude.

Continue reading 18. kids (a pithy dissent)

17. Other milk

Let’s say I was about one when I made the switch to store-bought milk, and from then on out I was pretty sure the only white drink in the world was 2% milk from the udder of a cow. It was a long time before someone said, “Here, try this, it’s goat milk.” Of course I thought them heretical, to be banished to the darkest corner of the Earth. I bellowed, “Goats don’t make milk! How dare you! Remove that imitation abomination from my fine glassware and apologize to the Great Bovine for your insolence!”

The only variation I permitted was the addition of chocolate to the flavor, and sometimes Oreo crumbs.

However, my world of cow-dominated dairy products continued to crumble as I aged.

Soon people were telling me that American and Cheddar were not the only types of cheese in the world. What! “Why yes,” they said, “there’s gouda and bleu and pepperjack. This one with the holes is called swiss. That one: provolone, and the other: brie.” I tried these foreign creations with contempt. How could they be cheese if they were not orange? And this one, this brie, is like a thick custard, so little like the cheese of my youth that there must’ve been a mistake. “No, no,” they said, “cheese comes in all shapes and sizes. Your pizza features mozzarella. Your spaghetti is sprinkled with parmesan. See this cheese here, it’s called feta, and this type has been made of sheep’s milk.”

SHEEP!

The blasphemy stung deep. I could handle news of cheese varietals, but this? No! Only cow’s milk could create such a wonder as cheese! “Try this,” they said, passing me a scrap of baguette with a white cheese spread. I did, and it was quite delicious, and they said, “That’s goat cheese.”

GOATS!

They’d invaded my milk and now my cheese! These bleating, skipping creatures of the hillsides. Trouble was, I really liked goat cheese. It was apparent that my loyalty to cows had blinded me from the reality: there were other cheeses, and more shockingly, there were other milks, and not just those from other animals. “Look here,” they said, taking me to the supermarket. “We have soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and even rice milk. And did you know there’s such a thing as buffalo milk?”

My God, I remember thinking. Have we lost our minds? We’re milking almonds, now?

The point I want to make is, certainty about anything is denial of the idea that alternatives exist. I think we tend to have a problem with this, as a global society, which leads to many arguments. We get stuck in our little worlds, our opinions and our beliefs, and when we discover that there are other options out there, we sort of freak out. People who feel like they’re absolutely correct are likely to be disproven, and unfortunately, they probably won’t take it very well. That said, never be certain, stay open minded, and remember: there are always other milks.

16. My bucket’s bucket list

  1. I want to be a young boy’s helmet as he conquers his backyard with an endless imagination.
  2. I want to be a flower pot on a retired woman’s porch in the south where the air smells of peaches.
  3. I want to be lowered to the bottom of a new well to scoop water for the thirsty.
  4. I want to carry seashells and pretty rocks found during a lovers’ stroll along the beach.
  5. I want to mold part of the world’s biggest sandcastle.
  6. I want to be an instrument in a traveling folk band.
  7. I want to float down the Mississippi.
  8. I want to apologize to Jack for being so heavy that he fell down, and to Jill, for tumbling after.
  9. I want to be painted by a kindergarten class.
  10. I want to be filled with Napa County grapes to be smashed into wine.
  11. I want to be pulled up from the street to bring groceries to an old Turkish woman’s window.
  12. I want to be a step-ladder for that thing you can’t quite reach.
  13. I want to carry juicy red apples fresh from the orchard.
  14. I want to be a part of a teenager’s first time washing their car, even if I just hold the soapy rags.
  15. I want to be filled with bird-feed and hung from an ancient oak tree.
  16. I want to be where the kittens play.
  17. I want to carry freshly hatched eggs from the pen back to the kitchen.
  18. I want to meet my cousins, the basket and the box.
  19. I want to be full of children’s sidewalk chalk on a hot summer day in San Francisco.
  20. I want to visit Nantucket, if only because of the rhyme.

Anyway, my point is, everything has dreams.

15. Kids

I think we should let them rule the world. Perhaps not entirely, but we should have children on our advisory boards, in our governments, in our inner circles and chilling out with the 1%. Sure they can’t drive and can hardly feed themselves, but kids have something that many of our upper crust decision makers don’t: fairness.

Today I played a makeshift game of Taboo with some kids where I wrote a word on the board and the two teams had to figure out ways to make their teammate guess that word while never actually using that word (or parts of it). For those that don’t know, imagine I wrote pumpkin on the board, and to make you guess pumpkin, I’d say, “orange Halloween gourd.”

Simple game, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if life were so simple? “Here, you can have that promotion if you can guess what word I’m thinking of.”

My point is, one team found it unfair that the other team guessed their word “eating” correctly simply by miming the act and not using any words. When I gave them a point for a correct guess, the other team all but threw a coup. This wasn’t charades. They were right, of course. It wasn’t fair. As an adult, I made the choice to let it slide just to make the masses happy, but the decision backfired. I nearly sparked a revolution. Which leads me to my first observation: you can’t please everyone. Rules are rules, and that’s fair. However, if the rules are fair and maintained without breaking, then in theory we could have fewer conflicts. Even the other team agreed that they’d been given an unfair point, peace was restored, and the game went on.

Imagine a couple kids in the White House. Think of how they’d interpret our wars and corporate monopolies and tax hikes and tuition prices. Think of how they’d suggest we negotiate peace treaties and create fair rules for the world to follow. They’d see right through our bureaucratic bullshit. They’d let us know right away how unfair some of our policies are.

On one hand, our crooked ways might corrupt their young minds: What’s this about borrowing more money when we already have a debt? You’re saying I can have more cookies even though Mom said we’re out? Oh, so I can help those kids from getting beat up under the monkey bars, but not the kids getting bullied on the basketball court? I guess it’s okay if I have all the water balloons and no one else can have them because I know what’s best to do with them.

Or maybe they’d actually be able to change some things. They might not know much about government or politics or international trade, but they know what fair means. They know when people are getting a bad deal. After all, we’re leaving this world to them eventually, and sure they’re not exactly stoked on voting or paying taxes, but they do like to be heard, and I think it’d be beneficial to hear what they have to say.

Continue reading 15. Kids

14. Lost at sea

Plane goes down, cruise ship sinks, or a strong tide takes you away from the shore. You’re on a raft in the middle of the ocean, alone. The sun is laughing at you. The lapping waves are in on the joke. No one is coming to rescue you because no one knows where to look. What do you do?

You’re stuck in an elevator on the fifty-sixth floor of a skyscraper. The brakes on your train ride to grandma’s house give out. An earthquake strikes while you’re fighting the crowds of a shopping mall. What do you do?

I think about this stuff sometimes. I think it’s important to run through the scenarios every once in a while, to ask yourself if you’d be prepared to survive an unexpected disaster.

In school we often had fire drills, but after a half-dozen of them, they became little field trips instead of life-saving practice evacuations. Perhaps I was lucky that none of those drills turned out to be true because I certainly didn’t take them seriously. And outside of elementary school, what organization enforces such drills? We pass evacuation maps in stairwells every day but we rarely stop to study them. Instead we have faith in the stability of our worlds. I’m not saying we should worry about fires and disasters all the time, be we take a big risk by not at least acknowledging the possibility.

So don’t freak out.

Just, look around at the wild things that can happen in this world. Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who survived a hurricane or outran a charging rhinoceros. Think of those who were trapped for days in caved-in mines or were lost in the wilderness after falling from a hiking trail, yet lived to tell the tale. How did they do it? Learn from them and take notes. At the very least, we all need to know what we’d do in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Cross your fingers that you live a long and disaster-free life, but don’t fall victim to a blind-spot. Have adventures. Be courageous. Take risks. Be smart. After all, according to Tom Hanks, all we need to survive on a desert island is a volleyball.

13. Litter

You know those warning signs you sometimes see on highways that proclaim massive fines for littering? They’re not joking around. I had a friend go home with a $300 ticket for dropping a cigarette out her window. Sure the ensuing bitching and moaning lasted for days, but the bottom line reality is that she should’ve known better. Cars come with ashtrays.

Here’s the trouble with litter, though. It’s not a universal concern. There are some countries where litter is almost normal because there are enough street-cleaners employed to make even the busiest, messiest streets go from apocalyptic to spotless. I’ve seen it. Then there are other countries that have one trash can per thousand people, which means holding onto your trash is a commitment and the urge to litter feels a lot like holding your pee for too long.

In the States, I think people litter for different reasons. One, they’ll likely never be held accountable for it. Two, it’s empowering to leave a little trash here and there. Three, it’s easier. Four, they’re of the opinion that society is already crumbling, anyway. Five, they simply don’t care.

I feel guilty even if I spit chewed bubble-gum into a bush. Not to say I’m completely innocent; it takes some aging and wisdom to recognize littering as a bad thing. As kids we’ll toss aside anything we’re not invested in, regardless, and hopefully we had parents around to pick up our candy wrappers and juice boxes. As teenagers, we validate a certain amount of littering because we see others doing it, too, and besides, at home we probably recycle, so, like, whatever.

Eventually we see the way trashy gutters, filthy shorelines, and abandoned refuse really detract from the beauty of our world. At some point we (hopefully) become those people who will pick up the garbage they see on the beach, or chase after that runaway plastic bag. I know it takes effort and garbage can be sticky, but the redemption you feel from cleaning even just one piece of litter can really make your day, especially if you know other people saw you do it. I always think: Fuck yes I’m saving the world. What are you doing?

The sad thing is that even if we don’t litter, even if we recycle, we’re still part of a global concern of too much waste and not enough space. Even the trash cans that keep our rubbish in order, they’re emptied into vast landfills, which are more or less just big piles of litter. I don’t know how we’re supposed to solve this problem. It’s too big for me to wrap my head around. Trash happens.

But in the meantime, please don’t leave your cigarette boxes in the gutter. No one wants to see a used condom in the park. If you didn’t want your receipt, then why’d you take one in the first place? Think before you litter next time. It’s an awful habit and it’s not helping anyone. Yes, we’re a wasteful, filthy species. Yes, we’re doomed to bury ourselves in our own garbage. But for the time being, can you not speed up the process with your negligence? Some of us want to enjoy the world while it lasts.

12. Forgetting

I don’t know when the fear started, but I’ve always been weary of growing old and forgetting my life. Seems rather normal, actually, and for whatever reason I’m expecting the forgetting to start after I turn seventy, if not sooner. Already I freak out a little when I forget the names of old friends or memories I shared with them. It makes me feel uneasy, to think I can live my one and only life on this planet and forget parts of it, basically clipping out parts of a movie reel, regardless of their emotional value. Seems like a waste.

Hence, the incessant blogging. I’ve been chronicling my life since 2010, writing it down mostly for the sake of maintaining a record of it, like a journal but more like a time-capsule with images, songs, and written things. These are the only mid-twenties I’ll ever know and to think I’d one day forget they ever happened, well I just can’t let that happen. When I’m old and bored, I want to have these written histories of my life available for review, the good and the bad stuff, so I can lay out my stiff joints on the lawn and read about my past.

Anyway, the point is, I don’t think we’re meant to remember everything forever.

Even writing it down, it’s not the same as the memory itself. I might read these words again in fifty years and ponder fondly on the thoughts and behavior of my youth, but there will be a detachment, a disconnect between my future self and my present self. I mean, you look at a picture of yourself as a small child and you think, “Who the hell was that kid?” Reading them is not the same as remembering them which is not the same as experiencing them, but second to a video recording, a blog is the closest thing I can think that captures at least the essence of what it means to be where you are right now. Because we will forget, eventually, and we will be curious about our past.

We have to forget things. It’s natural. Life is long and full of adventures, faces, stories and numbers. We have to remember to set alarms and attend meetings and see the dentist. We need room for names, addresses, and directions. We can’t remember all of our childhood friends. We’re not supposed to remember anything before fourth grade, in my opinion, and this comes from the guy who’s afraid to forget. Our brains move through life like forests. Some trees have to fall to feed the ecosystem.

In conclusion: I’m jealous of people with great memories.

But what I really wanted to say was… Wait… What was I talking about?

11. PB & J

My desert island food involves two slices of wheat bread and between them: one layer of chunky peanut butter and one layer of raspberry jelly. If I were allowed to be greedy, I’d ask for three slices of bread with an additional layer of each ingredient, creating what I like to call the Big Papa PBJ (a delicious secret I discovered in a college dorm). Many a childhood school lunch was made complete by the PBJ, but better yet was when Mom made them for me at home and cut the sandwich into quarters. The sandwich is like the perfect perfume, with a fruit-jelly top note, a wheat-bread middle note, and a peanut-butter base note. It’s a culinary miracle, harmonious to the last bite.

Anyway, my point is that there’s some things that never get old.

We grow up surrounded by stimulus, constantly absorbing the world around us like flowers soaking in the rays of the sun. Our photosynthesis is the digestion of information. Some of it becomes white noise, forgotten as we age, habits that we lose or beliefs that are shattered. Santa Clause fades. Parents become real people. Sweet snacks give us stomachaches and diabetes. So we adapt as we grow up, snipping away the bits that don’t serve us any purpose. Goodbye Beanie-Babies.

But what about the stuff that stays with you? I still twirl my hair when I think, just like I did as a kid, I still hold my breath when I drive through a tunnel, I still claim that my favorite movie of all time is a movie I saw when I was seven, and my favorite sandwich is still the PB & J.

I can’t let these things go. Is it because I don’t want to grow up? No. I’ve given up on that Peter Pan dream. Being a kid kinda sucks in comparison to the freedoms of adulthood. It’s not about fighting your age but maintaining your essence. Keeping some of your habits and preferences the same throughout your entire life is a difficult task. These were things that defined you from the get-go, your initial idiosyncrasies, your first experience with individuality. We will grow older and for the most part, this is good, but we will change in ways that we cannot foresee. The world will try to harden you, so if you can, uphold those childhood habits and beliefs. Eat goldfish crackers and wish upon stars and don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your momma’s back. It is important to hold onto bits of your childhood if you enjoy them. Keep them with you because they will keep your heart young. Now go drink some chocolate milk.

I’ve got a sandwich to make.

10. We suck

This isn’t about vampires or bendy straws or anything perverted. This is about failure. This is about us, people, humans, our global society, constantly being sent to the principal’s office to discuss our declining grades, making false promise after false promise, then heading back to class to make the same mistakes again. We simply aren’t learning. We suck.

We can’t have people shooting up theaters at midnight premieres.

We can’t have civil wars, police brutality, corporate corruption, or scandals in the church.

We’ve had these things in our lives for years and years. We continue to have them. We truly are doomed to repeat them, as if dependent on them, like a battered spouse who knows nothing else and cannot break the pattern. Are we so beaten and bruised by the violence and lies of our past that we can’t live without them? Yes, I know the argument that humans are inherently violent, but isn’t it about goddamn time we stopped hurting each other and found better outlets for those urges?

Apparently not. Apparently we’re just going to keep on shooting each other, stabbing each other in the backs, cheating the system at the expense of others, making up lies, and ignoring those who have been left behind. Sure there are plenty of good things that have come from the evolution of humanity, but the way it seems right now, we pretty much suck completely. I know I’m not alone in saying we’re fed up with the bus bombings and massacres and robberies. We’re fed up with the loss of innocent lives.

I know there is good in the world. I like to think the good outweighs the bad.

Even so, it’s not helping. The good is the water, but the bad is the layer of oil floating on the surface, blocking sight of the good underneath. We good souls are suffering from the minority’s bad choices, from the corrupt leaders and selfish activists and heartless criminals. I don’t give a shit what your situation is. STOP KILLING EACH OTHER. It would be a miracle if the slimy oil that’s spoiled the beauty of humanity for the rest of us is dissolved, but at the rate we’ve been going and the disgusting things that continue to happen today, I don’t have much hope.

Sorry to be such a downer. My blogs-not-wars campaign is off to a bad start if I’m already so negative, but this is how you feel when you wake up to the story of a psychopath opening fire into a crowded theater. Stories like this remind me that we’re far from a place of mutual respect and understanding. There are people who simply don’t get it. They suck, and because of them, we suck. We’re all in this together, in case you haven’t noticed. What you do reflects poorly on the rest of us. Get your shit together and do some yoga before you go off ruining our reputation.

9. Dominoes

Dominoes, the game, is fun to play, I’ll agree to this much, and once you’ve dusted the cobwebs from your elementary math skills, it’s pretty easy to score off multiples of 5. It makes for a good game at a smoky bar with a coupla beers and some classic rock on the jukebox, and if you wanna impress your elders, beat ’em at a game of bones.

However, when the word comes into conversation, I think not of laying pieces flat on a table, but standing them vertically like soldiers in a single-file line. I think about being a kid at my grandma’s friend’s house, setting out a few dozen dominoes across their kitchen floor in a swerving pattern longer than my fully-extended small intestines. It would take patience. It would take forever. But in the end, with one tender touch of the lead domino, the entire creation would collapse in an orderly fashion, one after the next, toppling like tiny tombstones.

It’s fitting that the word “dominoes” stems from the Latin word dominus, which means “master.”

This is what we become when we play with dominoes. We plan, we create, we destroy. We are the masters of these numbered blocks and we decide how the line will curve and we decide (unless there’s a cruel sibling or rambunctious pet nearby) when the line will crumble. There are few feelings as exciting and final as the knocking-over of that first domino. No going back now. With one goes all the others. God forbid you bumped the starter domino before you were finished.

So why do we do this? Why build and destroy?

The destructiveness makes the most sense. Why do you think we got so excited when we discovered how to harness fire? Here was this destructive element from which nothing seemed to survive. Fire became the explosive. Explosives became big, and, in turn, our thirst for destruction led to nuclear power and a few radiated Pacific islands. With one domino came the next, and the next, and the next.

Even deeper than that, take a look at how civilization is evolving.

We’re a society that builds its world like a trail of dominoes across the kitchen floor. This is how humankind has grown since Day One, when that first domino of civilization was set up to wobble proudly at the foot of our timeline. Then came another, and another, and soon we had millions of blocks stretching from the dawn of man to the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. We never branched off. It’s been one long trail all along. But we don’t look back. Heck, we hardly acknowledge our history. Why would we? It’s much more exciting to just keep adding blocks.

Some day our history will catch up with us. Maybe the dominoes of yesteryear are already starting to fall, crashing through our ancestors and ancient civilizations, crumbling pharaohs, kings, and soothsayers, smashing through the dark, dim, and enlightened ages, breaking down the revolutionary and industrial revolutions, coming after us like an avalanche or a lit fuse. We’ve been setting up the pieces for thousands of years. Sooner or later, we’ll either run out of pieces or we’ll simply be crushed by the weight of all our choices, and quite frankly, I already feel the pressure. I look around and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the current result is pretty fucked up. But there’s that dominus in us that won’t let us stop. I mean, after all, what is more masterful than the feeling that all that we’ve created can be destroyed with just one gentle nudge? I think we like living on the verge of annihilation.

Unless we stop now. It’s not too late to take the lessons we learned from our first domino trail, pick the stable parts, and start a new trail somewhere else, preferably not the kitchen floor.

8. Whistling

This year, I made it a goal to learn the art of whistling. Go ahead and laugh, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how. I also can’t blow a bubble with bubble-gum. Does this make me a lesser person? Nor can I touch my nose with my tongue, do a cartwheel, or lift one eyebrow at a time. I can’t even touch my toes. These are the simpler human tricks. I won’t get into the wilder circus act miracles that some people are able to perform because those are simply beyond me.

For examples, just youtube search: amazing human feats.

But what’s the point? Why do we possess some of these skills at all?

I was trying to figure out the value of whistling and the first thing I thought about was a pair of early human ancestors out hunting antelope, signaling to each other from across the grassland, or perhaps making this high-pitched noise to confuse their prey. Maybe it’s a form of early communication. When I try and whistle, I can make one steady note, but the experts can make melodies, and maybe it was through a variety of melodies that we used to hold conversations.

Nowadays, I still think whistlers are show-offs. But it’s the bubble-gum bubble-blowers that really turn me green with jealousy. You can explain it to me a million times, draw me a step-by-step guide, and give a thousand demonstrations, but my mouth refuses to play along. I feel like a Korean trying to correctly pronounce “Little Lillian’s lolly fell.” Whereas I think I can master whistling with a lifetime of patience, the bubble-blowing gene must’ve skipped a generation. Oh well. I can’t think of a good reason for humans to blow bubbles, anyway.

My point is, we’re strange creatures. I can’t think of any other animals on this planet who go around showing off their tricks to each other. I don’t see elephants whistling. I don’t expect a lion to burp the alphabet. These aren’t evolutionarily valuable skills.

Imagine if wild animals gathered together to out-trick each other. Alligators doing the worm. Chimpanzees performing parkour. Giraffes rolling their tongues like ocean waves. Fifteen zebras stacking themselves into a pyramid. Albeit these things would be incredible to observe, but don’t expect your African safari to turn into an episode of The X Factor. Animals stick to what they’re designed to do. They don’t slide swords down their throats or fold themselves into little boxes.

Our tricks might be one of our biggest differences between us and other animals. If you’ve got a strange skill, by no means do I suggest that you give it up. On the contrary, perform it proudly. We’re lucky as humans to have this construct known as society that permits us detachment from our basic needs. Unlike the other animals, we don’t need to hunt and gather and migrate, so we’ve got all this time to express individuality, pursue hobbies, and discover hidden talents. To whistle a melody is to say, “I am human.”

To blow a bubble-gum bubble is to say, “Sorry, Chris. You’ll never be as cool as me.”

7. Blog on, bloggers

I tend to believe that we ought to share more as a species, and I see blogging as a really valuable way to do that. We can create communities of writers and share our views of the world, both real and imagined (though there is truth in all fiction), and weave this blanket of humanity under which we can seek comfort in recognizing that we each fear and desire the same things. We’re all just people sharing oxygen and making babies and stuff. These differences that lead to the wars that we’re sucked into or that we watch on televisions, they’d be rendered pointless if we stopped shooting guns at each other and fired insightful blog posts instead.

We spend too much time arguing. As a species, we never want to compromise with one another. One of us always has to be right. One of us always wants what the other has more of. Did we forget how to share? Did we forget that we were once children who didn’t care about the look or gender or accent of our fellow playmates so long as they made space in the sandbox?

Blogging can’t save the world. I know that. But I think it can help.

If anything, when we do eventually destroy ourselves, future generations or some distant alien race might discover our vast collection of blogs on some server buried in the rubble, and they’ll read through not the histories written by the winners, but the histories written by the observers. It’s through blogs that we see the world through each other’s eyes. It’s through blogs we can connect to our fellow humans in other countries where they might think we don’t care about their country or their struggles, but we can leave a comment that says, “I do,” and bridge gaps across borders that have never been crossed before.

Blog on, bloggers. This is our life experience. This is the voice of humankind. If we yell loud enough, maybe one day we can drown out the gunfire and lift volume to the hum of the internet cables that can unite us.

6. Mars

Just came across this video of Neil deGrasse going off about space travel, climate change, life, chimpanzees, and aliens, naturally. I’m usually not one to jump on a band wagon so quickly, but last night, half-asleep at two in the morning, I really liked this theory that life on Earth was spawned by rogue asteroid debris from an impact on the surface of Mars. He says early Mars had the same life-sustaining qualities that eventually formed on our planet, and some Mars-grown bacteria might’ve latched onto an Earth-bound chunk of space rock a few billion years back. KABLAM, life begins on Earth. It’s sort of neat to think that all the life on this planet was the result of a lucky accident.

In the morning, I thought a little more about this theory, and I found some holes.

If we’re all evolved spores from a Martian life-form, then where did the life on Mars come from? What asteroid brought the organisms to the surface of our neighboring red planet and where did that asteroid come from? It seems like another hollow theory when you think about it for long enough. You end up with the same questions and answers that lead to more questions. This is also my problem with the theories regarding the birth of the universe, both scientific and religious.

We came from a giant explosion. Who lit the fuse? We were created in seven days by God. Who made God?

(Insert other theory here, counter with similar roundabout question).

I don’t think we’re supposed to know. In some lights, this sucks. It would be cool to know how it all started. In another light, it’s more fulfilling to just recognize that you’re part of this big mystery. Don’t look up at the stars for the want of answers, but look up at the stars and know that you’re just as puzzling to them as they are to you. No one knows what the hell is going on in this wild, crazy universal party. We don’t even know who invited us to the party. We’re just here to drink beer, build the tallest skyscraper, and draw trees on paper. I’m sure if there is life on other planets in other galaxies, they’re doing pretty much the same thing.

Here’s the video of Neil deGrasse that I watched:

5. Cardboard boxes

Call me crazy, but one of my favorite toys as a kid was a cardboard box. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of other things to keep my attention, but there was nothing quite like coming home from a long day at elementary school and taking a box out into the backyard to kick the shit out of it. I’d make sure it was put together all perfectly with the ends folded together tight (best ones were taped shut), then I’d just go wild. I’d kick it off the porch. I’d kick it high enough to where I could kick it before it touched the ground. You’d be surprised how long a cardboard box can endure this torture, but eventually it would fall to pieces and the game would be done. I’d go inside and drink a Capri-Sun and watch Wile E. Coyote cartoons.

But why the hell did I do that?

I liked the process of destruction. I liked figuring out how to make each new box last longer than the one before, how certain kicks resulted in specific outcomes. It became a science, and I even got a little exercise out of it from running around chasing those damn boxes around the yard. I can only imagine my mom watching from the back porch, sipping a bloody mary and thinking, “My God, what have I done?”

This leads me to my next point, however.

Mom shouldn’t have been asking herself what she had done wrong with me (her box-kicking son), but what she had done wrong with herself. Why wasn’t she out there kicking boxes with me? What happens to us that removes our ability to be entertained by simple things? Sure, we’re not cats chasing laser pointers, but should we be ashamed to find beauty or amusement in the mundane? I didn’t need an expensive gadget or Direct TV subscription to keep me entertained as a kid. Just an open yard and a declaration of war against all things cubed and cardboard. Mom should’ve come out and battled those paper products with me. Cats don’t need laser pointers or electric mice or plastic balls, they just need a scrap of paper and a piece of string. I think we could learn a little from our feline friends.

I won’t be picking up the habit again any time soon, but I still fondly remember my days of kicking boxes and I wonder where that part of me has gone. When did I grow up? Who told me, “Boy, you oughtta be kickin gas pedals and breakin girls’ hearts, not goofin around with them boxes in the yard.” They had no imagination, whoever they were, and they infested me with their same near-sightedness.

I mean, don’t you remember your childhood? A cardboard box could be a fort, a robot costume, a barricade, a time machine, a prison cell or a lava-resistent vehicle. I used it for all those things and more, then took it out to the pasture to put it down like an old horse.

We lose our childish cat-like infatuation with the world around us, and it’s a pity.

Find your cardboard box before it’s too late.

4. Fan death

No joke, I learned today that there is a serious risk of fan death in South Korea. You’ll even hear stories about it on the news. Fan death. Allow me to explain: should you happen to fall asleep in a room with closed windows while leaving a fan (ceiling, electric or otherwise) spinning throughout the night, you run a high risk of death. How does this happen? The best evidence locals come up with is the theory that the fan chops up the oxygen in your sealed room, destroying it, basically, and so you suffocate. If you check out wikipedia, you get fan death by way of carbon dioxide saturation or hypothermia, though these are countered with logical arguments.

This isn’t about fan death, though.

This is about the crazy ass shit we’re all capable of believing. How falsified information or bad science can become fact. This happens all the time and it’s been happening for centuries. We’re talking about early religion convincing people that some symbols evoked minions of hell. We’re talking about know-it-alls so committed to an earth-centered universe that they excommunicated naysayers. We point blame, we make up tales, we smudge the truth and eventually these otherwise ridiculous notions become fossilized as reality.

Sometimes it’s because we don’t know any better, so as humans we run our mouths before we consult our logic. I’m more prone to forgiving the wild theories and madness of our earlier history, since in my eyes we’re at least somewhat more civilized today, but we’re honestly not doing all that much better. We still believe in holy wars and infinite resources. We still believe in borders and segregation. We think fixing higher education in the United States is as easy as raising tuition again and again. Alcohol is still considered safer than marijuana because a while back the tree-pulp paper companies were threatened by the popularity of using hemp paper. We’re simply gullible, and if enough people tell us that this is the way things are supposed to be, we go along with it.

Fan death is bizarre to me because it makes no sense. I’m sure there are plenty of odd beliefs present in my own country that make even less sense to others. From lead in our paint to addictive chemicals in our hamburgers, we’re a really silly bunch of fools. I’d like to think one day we’d all just stop and think, realize this fact, and move forward, boldly, bravely, and wisely, like we once did when we still thought the world was flat.

 

3. Immortality

If you could choose to be immortal, would you?

As in, you’re the age you are now and you can eat this pill that gives you eternal life. Or you’re still a kid when the pill comes out, so you can wait a few years until you’re in your prime and try it then.

You can still get run over by a train and die. If you get cancer, it’ll kill ya. But otherwise, your body will just keep going. The cells you’ve got now, the freckles and the hair and the posture, it’ll all stay that way permanently. No anti-aging cream required. All you have to do is simply take care of your body. It might last forever, but you only get one of them.

Would you do it?

I would.

Not for the selfish reasons, either. I’m not afraid to die. I’ve given up on keeping myself up at night dwelling on that enigma. No, it’s not because I want to out-live everyone else and suck up more resources or because I think I’m special. Call me crazy, but the truth is that I want to see the way the world ends. I want to see where humanity leads. I want to see the asteroid impact or zombie apocalypse that wipes us out. I want to see the closing credits.

I think about all the lives that came before us. The people who lived whole lifetimes and made their little mark on this planet, but then left the planet to keep on spinning without them. I can’t imagine you won’t be curious about the next chapter, the one that follows the scene where you’re written off.

Oddly enough, most people I talk to would not want to be immortal. They want to be part of the natural cycle. I get that. Sure. It’s poetic.

But I’m not a poet. I’m into fiction, long prose and complicated plot lines. I want to see the story of the human race to its bitter end. Don’t leave me with some symbolic final stanza. I want to be here for the epilogue.

2. English, the lingua franca

For the moment, I’m lucky. My native language is the new lingua franca. English is, without a doubt, the most common language around the world. However, we shouldn’t count our dictionaries before their printed, since it’s not the first language to garner such a title and it probably won’t be the last. English, like Latin or Greek or French, will probably not reign supreme forever. Word on the street is Chinese could step up to the plate when English strikes out. Not sure how many strikes its got left, but lets just say it shouldn’t be too cocky at bat. It won’t be the first widespread language to overextend its stay on the plate and wind up back in the bullpen.

To learn English is an all but necessary part of education in most countries, and the teachers in those classrooms aren’t always native speakers from the inner circle (as defined by Kachru), which means the new priority isn’t to find teachers with English as their mother tongue, but to find anyone fluent enough to spread the language to the new generations. Hence, the creation of new Englishes, meaning that non-native speakers are teaching non-native speakers, and these ESL (English as a Second Language) users inevitably create their own breed of nativized English. Look at India. Look at China. Look at parts of Africa. They absorbed English like bread soaks up blood stains, then turned those stains into something useful. English is part of their culture now, if still removed from the lower class, used in government, in trade, in communication and business. But it doesn’t always sound like “inner circle” English because it has been adapted to their culture, stripped apart and rebuilt like an open-source program. It is a tool, like a walking stick on a rough mountain trail or a hammer when you’ve got something to nail, and there are countries out there who have more speakers of nativized English than there are native speakers of English.

Let’s not forget that English is already a mutated hybrid of a half-dozen languages before it. English was once despised and looked down upon. Now, you can take your native English accent and make bank overseas if you play your contract right.

If English continues to spread, and there’s no reason it won’t, then we’ll be as close to a universal language that we’ve ever been. Of the 7 billion on this planet, we’ll still be out of touch with a majority, but less because of the language and more because of physical distance (and the internet has already made that less daunting). We will have the potential to speak with cultures around the world, not without a fair share of code-switching and miscommunication, but we’ll at least be able to communicate. Think of the misunderstandings we could clear up. The compromises we could come to. The beautiful things we could discover once we know how to speak to each other.

I can’t deny that I’m lucky to be a native speaker. It makes my transition into the new world a little easier, since I’m not obligated to learn a new language. That’s not to say I don’t want to learn a new one, and I’ve already got a good amount of Spanish and some Turkish in my repertoire, but my mother tongue is the tongue that this world is craving these days. And this isn’t a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with learning a new language. I wish I could learn them all, collect them up like Pokemon. The brain loves it. The soul grows from it. Your mind expands, your understanding of other cultures increases, and soon you’ll have the option to travel to these new places and speak directly to the locals. How cool is that? Not everyone can do that. I think it’s good to get kids around the world to learn English. They can use it every single day if they’re motivated, and they’ll be happy they learned it when they grow up and recognize the benefits.

When I studied abroad in Istanbul, it blew my mind to make so many international friends who spoke basically perfect English. We communicated with nary a mistake and it rarely crossed my mind that these students were speaking a second (or third) language to me. At the flick of a switch they’d resort to their native tongue to gossip. It was a really inspiring discovery to see how amazing it would be if we all had this potential to share and laugh with each other, but most importantly, learn from each other. Language is how we connect. Language among different cultures is how we battle ignorance and fear, but only if that language crosses borders.

Anyway, I think it’s okay that English is spreading so rapidly. People worry that it will destroy the cultural variety of the world, but I disagree. English isn’t asking people to forget their country and their mother tongue. English says, “Use me. I’m a tool. I’m here to make the world make more sense.” It’s not barging into your house uninvited. It’s not secretly removing your French and Spanish and German vocabulary while you sleep. It’s on your side. It’s aiming to unite the world.

1. How hard can it be?

How hard can it be to have a thousand thoughts?

We have thoughts all the time. We’re thinking when we dream and we think as soon as we wake up. We think about breakfast, have thoughts about our lives, think about work or school or play. We share thoughts with friends and we keep some of them, most of them, private from the world. We think about problems and happy memories and responsibility and relationships. We think about thinking. You, you’re thinking as you read this, using that noggin of yours to do wonderful, amazing feats without even, ironically, thinking about it.

So how hard can it be to start a blog where all I do is write a thousand thoughts?

Well, I don’t want these to just be any old thoughts. I want the good stuff. I want the stuff that causes debates at the family gathering, the thoughts that friends discuss on rooftops at three in the morning after two sixers of cheap beer beneath the satellites. I want thoughts that keep you up at night. I want to write about the ideas and feelings and fears and theories that plague us, open-ended and maleable concepts that deny us easy answers like fish that give the fisherman a good chase rather than chomping down on the first reasonable piece of bait in the pond.

So how hard can it be?

Where do those thoughts come from? Life, I suppose. From conversations with strangers and the random pages of a book I’ve never read. From historical speeches and political mishaps and scientific breakthroughs. From the headlines and the word of mouth. From us, from you, from the spiraling whirlpool of images in my head.

It might be hard, it might be easy.

But here are a thousand thoughts, by Chris Fryer.